Friday, July 31, 2015

Why is failure expected in business but unacceptable in government?


    So here is my question.
    When it comes to business, failure is expected, anticipated, almost celebrated. A cliche at this point: you have to be willing to fail in order to succeed, to try new things, to have them sometimes not work, then pick yourself up. That observation isn't challenged; it isn't profound. Everyone agrees: Take pride in your failures. 
     Now shift your frame of reference from business to government. A failure in government—even one example of failure, one bad program, one person frustrated by the system—is an indictment of the whole. Here failure is not only unexpected, it's intolerable. More evidence that the whole system needs to be reworked, if not abandoned. A slow roll-0ut indicted Obamacare no matter how many millions of people were helped. With government, failure not only stings, it stains, forever.
    What's going on here?
    My theory:
    It isn't government, as such, that upsets the Right Wing, as the people the government helps. It is no longer polite to rail at minorities, to heap scorn on poor people or laugh at the handicapped, to blame them for their situations and minimize their plight.
     So the government stands in as proxy. The hate that many feel, still, for certain classes of people can be safely directed at the government, and resources yanked away, citing these failures that are an intrinsic part of business, and used for purposes that don't benefit people who shouldn't be here, messing up our pristine lily-white worlds in the first place. They don't want the government to work on their behalf, so they use the inevitable failures as a straw man rational to oppose it. 
    That's the situation in a nutshell, is it not? 

19 comments:

  1. What can you expect from conservatives?

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  2. Neil, I have a fair body of knowledge concerning your first paragraph, and would like to address it. For the most part what you describe can be applicable to a skilled professional starting a business, ideally having acquired several years experience working in the profession. Your on your own or a co-worker joins you, there are many businesses that don't require much working capital, technical writer, web designer, etc. This is where people can be cavalier about being successful, and even if your just getting by, closing up shop and trying something else can be a noble endeavor. The next level is when you require a store front, buying equipment and tools, you may be putting in a substantial portion of your life savings, and borrowing money from family and friends. A restaurant, auto repair, the list of possibilities are endless. People at this level are highly committed to success. They don't want to lose their life savings, or that of there parents and friends. This is what capitalism is all about, providing goods and services to your customers, who choose to do business with you, over your competitors. Making a reasonable profit for yourself, and investors. The next level is when your looking for private investors, or a bank loan. You are not going to get far here if your business plan, has a high probability of failure. The only other situations I can think of is a subsidiary of a large company that has had its day, losing money, and is closed down. There are predetors that will buy an unprofitable business, close it down, sell the assets and make a profit, but that behavior is not welcomed.

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  3. Also, they never view government handouts they benefit from as evil. It's only evil when the people they don't want to benefit are included.

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  4. yes, they forget about corporate welfare

    or won't admit that ACA has been helpful

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    1. The worse thing is that there are poor in southern states, crackers & hillbillies- and they will be on govt handouts but vote repub. cause they think the dems aren't holy enough.

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    2. Or conservs think dems can't be patriotic. Or we have to constantly be supporting troops by sending them off to wars to help big OIL. How about supporting troops so home in one piece?

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  5. Pretty much sums it up.

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  6. When a business fails it's their money but when government fucks up it my money.

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    1. You're not the only one who pays taxes.

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  7. The political genius of Ronald Reagan, or his handlers, was in uniting two groups of people in hostility to government: bigots, in the South and elsewhere, who were angry that they couldn't abuse black people as they chose; and businessmen who were angry that they couldn't abuse their workers and/or the environment as they chose. That's why so much hatred is directed at the government, especially the federal government.

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  8. When a business fails it's their stockholder's money and their employees' livelihood.

    I had a right wing friend who went on and on about the inept government. Ironically he was a long term Motorola employee. He didn't fully appreciate the irony.

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  9. Right, look at the United payoff some years back. They were saved by the gov't, but some still laid off. I'm beginning to wonder if even Dems can do much to control big bus.

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  10. That is precisely what's happening now. Neil, is this an original theory? You need to get this out there. White washing is all the rage!

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    1. Well, I thought it up and wrote it this afternoon, because I wanted a second post. That doesn't mean David Hume didn't write the same thing in 1774. But I doubt it.

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  11. Trying to fairly rate the private vs. public sectors on their respective successes and failures is futile because the missions, incentives and benchmarks are so different. In the business world, if the better mousetrap you build doesn't sell you drop it. If you're in charge of public education and it is perceived that you are graduating a lot of dummies you have no recourse but to try harder (with a lot of inconsistent advice about how well you are really doing and what you should do about it).

    In the business world leaders are free to make many decisions with minimal scrutiny compared to public administrators, who operate in a fishbowl. As the recent GM recall scandal revealed, corporate malfeasance is easily overlooked if it affects the bottom line positively.

    As far as government vs. private "efficiency" is concerned, it should be, but seldom isn't acknowledged, that much of "government" operates through private contractors. It would be really hard to untangle the relative responsibilities for the flawed rollout of the Affordable Care website of the contractor and the government contract administrators. Congress couldn't do it because members of the oversight comities were only interested in proving their respective political points about the merits of the program.

    Over a number of years spent administering millions of dollars worth of government contracts my observation was that there were plenty of smart people on both the government and contractor sides; most were honest and motivated to achieve the program's goals; but it was always necessary to keep in mind that they were in it, in part, to make a buck and it was one's responsibility to keep a reasonable profit from turning into a windfall.

    Tom Evans

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  12. To me it seems as wrong to tar all conservatives with the same brush as it is to make sweeping generalizations about members of any group, especially when you're formulating that judgment based on the worst of the lot. Sure, there are some conservatives who run the gamut from mildly jerky to unbearable. The same can clearly be said of liberals. Most of the conservatives I know are well-meaning and charitable individuals, many of whom volunteer hours of their time for the less fortunate. They happen to have a different view on what role government should play in solving social issues. Reasonable people can disagree.

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    1. Corey,
      Well said and right on.

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  13. No, it is not.
    The Cato Institute and Yale Law Professor Peter Schuck have done outstanding scholarly work on why government fails. Their studies have not even a hint of the the type of bias asserted in the opinion expressed above.
    http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/why-federal-government-fails
    Specific to Obamacare, last week the Wall Street Journal published an editorial detailing how GAO investigators were able to obtain insurance subsidies for bogus enrollees all too easily. The piece is called Obamacare Undercover and is worth a read.
    As for Illinois and Chicago, government really only works for the people who work for it. Their compensation, benefits and retirement plan are very rich compared to the private sector. The result? Failure to deliver basic social and public safety services on a level even approaching competence while government finances spin out of control towards inevitable bankruptcy on a scale larger than even Detroit.

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.